Do you know that pinched nerve in the neck is one of the common medical issues? It affects many people across the globe. Also known as, radiculopathy, the condition is unnerving. So, you feel distressed due to the signs triggered by it. You may have suffered from an episode or two and likely to experience it in the future due to its common occurrence.
While some may experience pain only for a short period along with minor discomfort, others are not so lucky. They suffer from long episodes of pain along with restriction in their range of motions. So, it affects their daily activities and makes their life hell. Such people find it difficult to even lift their head from the pillow, look over their shoulder while taking reverse, or even wear a shirt over the head. Such instances indicate the problem needs medical intervention. So, know more about the problem to take the right steps and alleviate the distress from life.
About Pinched Nerve in The Neck
A pinched nerve in the neck refers to the compressed or damage of the specific nerve. You develop the condition when the nerve roots become injured or inflamed. What is the nerve root? It is the part where your nerve branches off from your spinal cord. The pinching of the nerve can occur in other parts of the spine apart from the neck like the lumbar or thoracic spine. The condition affecting your neck is also referred to as radiculopathy. As a result of the condition, you suffer from symptoms like weakness, tingling, numbness, and pain radiating into the arm. The condition is common among people who are in their middle age. It is because people in that particular age group suffer from a herniated disc. Due to sudden lifting, bending, or twisting, the soft discs slip between the vertebrae of the spine. It results in irritation of nearby nerves.
In most cases, radiculopathy occurs due to age-related degeneration of the spine. As you age, your discs shorten, resulting in the compression of vertebrae as well as irritation of nearby nerves. Bone growths can also result in the problem. Mild cases of the condition are easy to resolve with home remedies. Moderate cases require non-invasive treatment like physical therapy to overcome pain and weakness. But, severe cases require immediate medical intervention.
Symptoms Of Pinched Nerve In The Neck
When you suffer from radiculopathy, your body shows the distress with some symptoms. So, you need to observe for the following symptoms:
Most people who suffer from a pinched nerve in the neck can experience a tingling sensation. It is usually accompanied by numbness. In the early stages, you experience a tingling sensation for a short time and then it goes away. Over time, the tingling sensation becomes persistent.
Pain Due To Pinched Nerve In The Neck
Along with the tingling sensation, you can also feel pain. Most people who suffer from it often describe it as electrical or sharp. So, you feel distresses. Some patients suffer from a burning sensation in the affected area.
In severe cases, muscle weakness may occur because the nerve that controls the muscle has been irritated. If present and not identified and corrected, those muscles may decrease in size and function.
Common Areas Affected By Pinched Nerve
A pinched nerve in the neck is caused by problems in the cervical spine. This condition can result in pain or tingling sensation into your arm or the shoulder blade region. But, pinching of the nerves can also affect other areas of the body. Here are the common areas:
Nerve pinching can occur at the median nerve where you suffer an injury along the wrist.
You suffer an injury due to repetitive actions in the ulnar nerve. This usually occurs due to leaning on your elbow while you drive or sit.
Due to the compression of your sensory nerve that leads to the upper thigh, you suffer issues to the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve. This is also referred to as meralgia paresthetica. The condition is common in pregnancy as you suffer from nerve compression due to enlarged uterus.
Due to crossing the legs at the knee, you suffer from peroneal nerve injury. It is a common problem.
You can suffer from nerve pinching in the lumbar spine or lower back. This causes sciatic nerve problems, also referred to as sciatica. So, you can feel pain traveling from your lower back into the leg. It triggers pain that radiates from your back into a hip or leg.
But, you must not confuse it with a tennis elbow, which is a painful condition occurring due to repetitive activities. Due to the condition, you suffer from pain. But, it is caused due to inflammation of your tendons present in the elbow and not because of nerve pinching.
Causes Of Pinched Nerve In The Neck
When you experience pressure on a peripheral nerve, it results in irritation of the nerve’s protective covering (myelin sheath), the nerve itself, or both. Due to this condition, the nerve is unable to conduct sensory impulses to your brain properly. This condition results in a sense of numbness. Not just the irritation of the nerve, but also damage or injury to the nerve can also lead to the condition. Due to the condition, people feel pain or a prickling/tingling sensation, also known as paresthesia, which is sent to the brain. You may not think it as a serious problem in the early stages. It just feels like your neck or hands have fallen asleep. But, as the inflammation persists, you can see the sensation worsening instead of the problem resolving itself after a few minutes.
The pinching of nerves for a short time resolves by itself but takes some time for the symptoms to disappear. So, you have to wait for several weeks or months for the problem to resolve completely. But, the compression remaining for a long time can result in permanent nerve injury.
Risk Factors Associated With Pinched Nerve In The Neck
Who is more susceptible to the condition? Anything resulting in the increased pressure around your nerve in the neck can result in pinching. So, people with the following issues are more to the condition compared to others.
The most common cause of the condition is poor posture along with leaning on elbows. As time progresses, it results in pressure injury to the nerves surrounding the neck.
When you suffer from arthritis and bulging disc (disc herniation) in the spine can put pressure on nerve roots. The condition results in discomfort or pain associated with nerve pinching.
When you are carrying extra pounds, then it can put can pressure on your neck and lower back. So, it makes you more vulnerable to nerve pinching.
When you are pregnant, your body changes a lot. It increases your body weight and increases your chances of water retention. The condition can put you at risk of developing nerve pinching.
When you complete the same activities like using certain tools or typing can increase swelling around certain nerves in your neck. So, it results in symptoms resulting in a pinched nerve in the neck.
See A Doctor For Pinched Nerve In The Neck
People who feel uncomfortable due to pinched nerve in the neck, then the main question when they need to seek medical assistance. When you feel constant, severe pain or pain that affects you frequently, then it is better to see a doctor. It is important to diagnose the actual problem of triggering pain. So, getting medical assistance is essential as the doctor can order several tests to determine the actual cause. It is also important to see a doctor when other remedies you try at home do not heal the pain. Some symptoms indicate a serious underlying problem. So, you need to get medical advice to prevent serious complications. So, see a doctor as soon as possible when you see the following symptoms:
- When you see changes in bladder or bowel movements
- Suffer from weakness in your whole limb or it gives out
- It becomes difficult to grasp things
- Your hands become weak causing to drop things
Stop any treatment at home when you feel pain not easing or makes your condition worse. When numbness or tingling gets worse or does not resolve with home remedies, it means you require medical intervention. So, see a physician or orthopedic doctor to get advanced treatment. Your doctor prescribes medication, physical therapy, or surgery based on the underlying problem.
Diagnosing Pinched Nerve In The Neck
When you experience pain in the neck region, you try some home remedies. But, when such treatment options fail to see results, it is time to book an appointment with the doctor. When conservative treatments at home fail to relieve pain, it means you suffer from an underlying condition or serious damage to the nerves. The doctor uses the following tests to detect the issue:
The doctor performs a thorough assessment by checking your neck, arms, shoulders, hands, and wrists. The physical examination can help look for any weakness of your muscles, detect changes in your reflexes, and ask about the sensations you feel around the neck region.
Sophisticated imaging tests will help your doctor track the exact source of the problem. Your doctor orders for the following tests based on the symptoms:
X-ray To Detect Pinched Nerve In The Neck
It is the imaging test that helps show any narrowing as well as alignment changes of the spinal cord. It can also detect any fractures.
CT scans show the images with more precision and clarity. It is the 3D x-ray images with more details of your neck and spine. So, it helps your doctor make a conclusive diagnosis.
In some cases, CT scan images may not show the extent and severity of the problem you suffer from. So, the doctor suggests for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. This imaging technique can show any soft tissue damage triggered due to nerve compression or any spinal cord damage.
Your doctor suggests measuring the electrical impulses of muscles to detect any problems. So, undergoing an EMG and nerve conduction studies will help determine if a nerve works properly. Your doctor uses the result to detect if nerve damage or pressure on spinal nerve roots is caused by other medical conditions like diabetes.
Remedies For Pinched Nerve In The Neck
For mild cervical radiculopathy, you can try some remedies at home. There are some effective options you can include in your routine to get relief from pain triggered due to the condition. Consult your doctor to check if these remedies will offer relief. But, when the methods suggested, fail to offer pain relief, then you need to get medical treatment from your doctor.
Adjust Your Posture For Overcoming Pinched Nerve In The Neck
Your usual sitting or standing posture can cause the condition and subsequent pain. So, you need to adjust your posture. Try to find a posture that helps you feel better. You can spend time in the specific posture for overcoming pain.
Use A Standing Workstation
Standing with an incorrect posture for a long time can trigger pain. To overcome the problem, you can use standing workstations. It is gaining popularity with the mobility it offers. An ergonomic workstation can help you work without stressing the nerves in your body. You can raise the monitor of your computer to eye level to reduce the pressure on your neck and avoid neck pain. The standing workplace aids in keeping your spine moving and flexible. So, it decreases pain triggered due to cervical radiculopathy. If your company cannot offer you a standing workstation, then you need to take the time to walk each hour to avoid the condition.
Taking rest can offer relief from pain caused due to pinching of nerve roots. Rest until your symptoms resolve. Limit all the strenuous activities that put a strain on your neck. So, avoid actions like lifting heavyweights. Pay close attention to how your body feels. Resume the activities slowly and if pain returns stop the activity immediately. But, avoid taking too much rest it can decrease the muscle function.
Use Cervical Collar
While you are recuperating from the pinching of nerves in your neck, your doctor suggests using a soft cervical collar. The neck brace limits the range of motion of your neck. It is essential in your healing process as it prevents further injury.
Stretch To Overcome Pinched Nerve In The Neck
Try doing some gentle stretches to relieve the pressure on your nerves. You can also try practicing yoga to get relief from the symptom. But, try not to go too deep into the stretch. It can worsen the problem. Also, if you feel pain or any discomfort, then ease your stretch. It is because even a small movement can make a big impact on your body.
You can see a doctor or physical therapist check if gently exercises can offer you relief from pain. Simple exercises that you can complete at home will ease the mild discomfort triggered due to the pinching of the nerves. The gentle exercise focuses on strengthening your neck muscles and relieving pressure from the nerves. When you start the exercise, try to take it easy. Start slow and gradually increase the pace. You can try the exercises while standing up or sitting down. Here is the list of exercises you can try:
- Trap Stretch
- Chin tuck
- Chin tuck with extension
- Head turn
- Shoulder roll
- Neck bend
Research has indicated the effectiveness of massage therapy in reducing muscle tension as well as promoting relaxation. It can also alleviate the pinching of your nerves in the neck region. You can consider massage therapy to reduce pain intensity for getting relief. You can opt for a gentle Swedish massage that can loosen the tense muscles in the neck region. It can also release the pressure around the nerve in the neck. But, it is better to avoid deep tissue massage. It is because deeper massage can make the problem worse.
Apply Heat For Alleviating Pain Due To Pinched Nerve In The Neck
Applying heat can relax the painful area in your neck. Placing heat pads can relax the muscles that become tight around the nerves experiencing pinching. Heat helps relax your muscles that causes tightness around your pinched nerve. Heat also increases blood flow, which can help the healing process. Place the heating pad directly on the affected areas for at least ten to fifteen minutes. It is easy to find heating pads of different sizes at the drugstore. If not, you can place a bottle with warm water on the affected area. You can find heating pads in various sizes at a drugstore.
Ice also reduces inflammation and swelling. So, you need to place an icepack on the affected area for at least ten to fifteen minutes. Never place ice directly on your skin as it can cause burns. So, wrap an ice pack with a towel and place it in the area you feel pain.
Take OTC Pain Medication
If you feel distressed due to pain caused by a pinched nerve in the neck, then you can take over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. While taking medications like aspirin or ibuprofen, then you need to follow all the instructions provided with the medication. Before taking them, you need to consult your doctor.
Treatment For Pinched Nerve In The Neck
When the method suggested above does not offer you relief from pain and discomfort, it is time to get medical treatment for the condition. Your doctor suggests the following to get relief from the condition:
It is the medication with a stronger dose compared to OTC (over-the-counter) NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). The doctor prescribes a short course of oral corticosteroids. So, the medication helps relieve pain as it reduces inflammation and swelling around the affected nerve.
When oral corticosteroids fail to offer results, your doctor injects steroid injection near the affected nerve. It helps reduce inflammation. While steroid injection may not relieve the pressure caused due to pinching of the nerve, it reduces swelling. So, it is ideal when you suffer pain by bulging or herniated disk or by narrowing foramen. When swelling reduces, it allows the affected nerve to heal.
Narcotics are only prescribed for patients who experience severe pain. The medication is suggested when other options fail to offer relief. Since the medications can cause dependency issues, it is only suggested for a limited time.
When the pinched nerve in the neck does not respond to medications, then to ease pain, physical therapy is suggested. Physical therapy refers to a set of exercises used to stretch and strengthen the muscles. It strengthens the core muscles and offers relief from pain due to the reduction or elimination of nerve pressure. The exercises are designed to increase strength, support, or flexibility in the areas surrounding the affected nerves.
In normal cases, a physical therapist works with you to understand your problem and create a problem to ensure quick healing and recovery. You need to complete the exercise under the guidance of the trained professional to avoid any complications. Performing exercises incorrectly can worsen the condition. With professional assistance, you can stretch or exercise without any issue.
It is the last option suggested by the doctors when all the other methods fail to relieve pain. Invasive surgery releases the pressure on nerves that triggers pain. The type of surgery opted for pain relief depends on the nerve involved. But, the end goal of surgery is to eliminate or relieve pressure on the nerves causing pain in your neck region.
Prevent Pinched Nerve In The Neck
Is it possible to prevent pinched nerve in the neck? While some cases are easy to prevent, others are not. But, you can take some steps to lower the risk of suffering from pain.
Maintain Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight can prevent many ailments, including avoiding pinching of nerves. So, if you are overweight, try to lose weight. It will help you avoid any strain on your neck or shoulders. The extra pounds you carry can also worsen any underlying condition triggering pain.
Bad posture puts unnecessary strain on your nerves. So, try to have good posture. It is the solution to many issues. Never sit or stand for a long time or hold the same position for an extended period as it can compress nerves in your neck.
Include Stretching Exercise
You need to include stretching exercises in your routine to keep your muscles flexible and strong. It prevents the pinching of nerves.
Take A Break
Take breaks between repetitive motions. It is because performing the same action can put a strain on your muscles. So, if you are sitting or standing for a long time, then take a break. Go for a walk or move your body.
It is possible to experience a pinched nerve in the neck occasionally. You can alleviate pain and discomfort triggered due to the condition at home with some easy remedies. But, when the pain does not subside, you need to see a doctor immediately. It is because you suffer from damage that is irreversible. In such cases, get medical assistance to deal with it. You can also avoid the condition when you use to take care of your postures. Using your body properly without overworking the muscles will avoid such issues.
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